The IMSA SportsCar Championship’s new GTP era has begun with a thrilling battle between Acura and Porsche being resolved in the favour of Tom Blomqvist’s Meyer Shank Racing Acura.
Due to poor weather and only two of the new GTP cars taking to the track in Saturday’s two-hour evening session, the class was granted an extra 15 minutes preparation before qualifying.
Sebastien Bourdais and Alex Lynn were installed in the #01 and #02 Chip Ganassi Racing-run Cadillac V-LMDh entries; Nick Tandy and Felipe Nasr took charge of the Team Penske-run Porsche 963s; Philipp Eng was wheeling one of the BMW M Hybrid V8s run by Rahal Letterman Lanigan; Pipo Derani was driving the Action Express Racing Cadillac; Ricky Taylor drove the Acura ARX-06 of Wayne Taylor Racing, while the similar car of Meyer Shank Racing was driven by Blomqvist.
The #25 BMW missed the session because the car was still in the IMSA tech line.
Tandy set the early pace with a 1m35.530s, then lowered the mark to 1m35.349s, then 1m35.228s.
Then Blomqvist and Nasr set identical times to each other, before the next time by Blomqvist was on top with a 1m35.081s for MSR Acura.
That wasn’t the final roll of the dice though, because Nasr went faster with an impressive 1m34.926s around the 3.56-mile Daytona course.
Some 75 minutes later, after the lower classes had qualified, the GTP cars were back on track for their 20- minute qualifying session. The two Acuras were first out and Taylor delivered a 1m34.783s on his third lap and 1m34.295s on his fourth.
Blomqvist then pitted for fresh tyres, while Taylor let his tyres cool before going for another fast one – an impressive 1m34.198s.
Nick Yelloly in the #25 BMW got within 0.9s, but he was pushed down to fifth, by Nasr, Tandy and team-mate Eng.
Tandy had set the fastest two sectors of all on his next lap, but braking for the Bus Stop chicane – where LMP2 drivers had reported a severe tail wind – Tandy lost control on turn-in and struck the tyre wall.
That brought out the red flag and cost the #6 car its two fastest times.
That left the cars with just one chance of a flying lap, with Nasr delivering an excellent 1m34.114s to beat Taylor - only to see his time shaded by a 1m34.031s from Blomqvist’s MSR Acura.
Bourdais had sat idle for the majority of the session, but emerged from the pits in determined mood to land a 1m34.262s and fourth on the grid alongside Taylor, and within a quarter-second of the pole.
Team-mate Lynn will start from fifth alongside Derani of AXR, while the BMWs of Eng and Yelloly were a respectable seventh and eighth, within one second of pole.
Ben Keating of PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports found enough clear air to slam in a 1m40.541s to go fastest in the LMP2 class, while Nico Pino in the Sean Creech Motorsport car took top honours in LMP3.
New for this year, GTD teams were allowed to run their Platinum and Gold drivers to run qualifying. With 33 cars in total – nine GTD Pro, and 24 GTD – the track was extremely busy.
Philip Ellis of Winward Racing delivered a 1m46.267s to make it a Mercedes 1-2-3 in GTD, with WeatherTech Racing's Maro Engel top of the GTD Pro class.